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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

March 12, 2011

Blessed Saturday!

Father, look upon our weakness
and reach out to help us with Your loving power.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen
(Opening Prayer for Mass)

Isaiah 58:9-14 (obeying God’s law brings new hope)
Psalm 86:1-6 “Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may be faithful in Your sight”
+Luke 5:27-32 (Jesus came for sinners)

Lent is meant to be medicinal.

No matter what we think our biggest problems may be,
the Good Physician knows that nothing causes us more unhappiness,
more misery than our own sin.

This [sin] is the root of human unhappiness.
Other things may make life unpleasant, uncomfortable,
extraordinarily difficult, but not necessarily unhappy.
We can find happiness in ignorance,
in terrible physical fatigue, in back-breaking labour.
But happiness is not to be found in the heart of a sinner.
He may wear the mask of pleasure
and carry an air of bravado about with him
as a protection from the pity of others.
But no one knows better than the priest
that no great sinner needs to be urged to shame and remorse;
that sinner has drunk deep of the cup of misery and knows well its bitterness.
-Walter Farrell, A Companion to the Summa

Jesus came to heal us. He came to restore us. He came to bring us happiness.

But as every patient learns, sooner or later,
the process of healing requires cooperation–and sacrifice.
As we are part of the problem, so we must become part of the solution.
Spiritual health, like physical health, requires certain lifestyle changes,
certain forms of discipline.
We need to follow the Good Physician’s prescriptions.

We begin where Levi (aka St. Matthew) started, by responding to Jesus’ call, “Follow Me”
(Luke 5:27-28). Levi immediately stood up, left everything, and followed Jesus.

Then we have to “listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5) and “do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

He tells us quite a lot in our first reading.
Our spiritual health requires us to get rid of oppression, false accusation
and malicious speech.

That’s a mouthful!

And easier said than done…but we don’t have to rely on our own strength for this.
The Good Physician is here to help us.

Set, O Lord, a watch before my mouth,
a guard at the door of my lips
-Psalm 141:3

The next item on our prescription is to
“bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted” (Isaiah 58:10).
Sometimes that’s easy enough, when our sympathy is stirred
and the needy are grateful.
But even when it seems like they deserve their fate, we still need to give.
Our spiritual health requires it.

Finally, our Good Physician instructs us to keep the Sabbath–
to make it a holy day devoted to Him (see Isaiah 58:13).
He gave it to us as a day of rest for body and soul.

It is a day of protest against the servitude of work
and the worship of money
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2173

Having designed and made us, God knows that we burn out without a rest,
and that our neglected souls wither when they’re deprived of time with Him.
He gives us the Sabbath as a gift, as a delight!
We neglect it to our own peril.

What we find when we follow God’s prescriptions is that even if they seem bitter at first,
over time, they all become a delight.
Health feels good!
We begin to lose our taste for spiritual junk food,
and wonder how we ever found it appealing in the first place.

That’s when, like Levi, we’re ready to share what we’ve found.
That’s when we begin to invite everyone we know to join us at table with Jesus
(see Luke 5:29).
That’s when we’re ready for Easter.

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